After the TSP, I invest my money in Betterment and Vanguard. I track all of my investments with Personal Capital. I also wrote a short, 2 hour book summarizing this site. You can buy it here.
Update Feb 5, 2014: We’ve made $4994 through AirBnB since Feb 2013! That’s over five month’s rent!
When it comes to making extra money while serving in the military, it’s not easy. You may be working 12 hour days, 6 days a week on swing shift. Your significant other probably can’t advance much in their career because you’re forcing them to move every three years.
One great way I’ve found to make some extra money, meet interesting people, and keep my house extra clean is AirBnB. AirBnB is similar to Vacation Rental By Owner, Couch Surfing, and Home Away. All of these sites allow you to stay at someone’s place for a day, a week, or even longer.
On AirBnb, you can rent a couch, a spare bedroom, an apartment, a tree house, or even an airplane! It’s free to list your space. AirBnB will even send a professional photographer so you can showcase your place to the world.
My AirBNB Experience
I started staying as a guest on AirBnB back in 2011. My wife and I stayed in a host’s garage that was converted into an apartment, a mobile home that had an outdoor shower, and a swank apartment with the works. We loved travelling to a new city and skipping on the cookie cutter, impersonal, and sterile environment of the hotel. Plus, AirBnB rentals are usually cheaper than even the roach motel. We love saving money while travelling!
Both my wife and I spend far too much time in hotel rooms for our occupations. When we travel for pleasure, we like to get away from hotels as much as possible. AirBnB gave us that opportunity. We’ve met some good people and slept in clean and comfortable beds all over the world. AirBnB is definitely not a scam.
After our PCS last year, we purchased an apartment and listed our day bed in the living room on AirBnB. For a few months we had no guests. Then, starting in January of this year, people started booking!
So far we’ve had a total of 4 guests:
- A fabric saleswoman
- A journalist
- A law student
- A mountain climber
Quite the eclectic mix! In total, we’ve made $349 from just renting our couch out. And that’s just in the last 3 months. Imagine what you could do with a spare bedroom or a rental property.
And what were our costs? Nothing but our time. And all we did with that time was clean the house, which was something we probably should have done anyways!
Safety and Security – Hosting with AirBnB
All of my fellow airmen were shocked.
- “What does your wife think?”
- “You do this while your away and your wife is home alone?”
- “There’s no way I could ever do that, that’s way too trusting of humanity.”
Well, it was mostly my wife’s idea, so I’m sure she’s okay with it! While it does take a bit of trust in humanity, AirBnB makes the whole process very easy and builds trust into each transaction.
As a host, you have complete control over what your listing looks like and what details it lists. You also completely control who stays at your place and who doesn’t and for how long they can stay. Of course, make sure you read the terms and conditions that AirBnB requires you to sign before you host. Here’s some of the highlights.
I have my listings set so that every guest who stays with me must have a verified phone number and previous positive reviews. I also have to pre-approve anyone to book my place. When people inquire about booking, I ask them to send me just a few details about their trip, so I can ascertain whether they’ll be a good guest or not. 99% of AirBnB users are completely awesome people, but this helps to filter out the 1% you don’t want.
AirBnB provides a 24/7 helpline to both guests and hosts. Hosts are also covered by a $1,000,000 insurance policy. Not bad. You can learn more about AirBnB Safety and Security.
Basically, go with your gut. If someone sends you an email in ALL CAPS offering you his Nigerian fortune…you probably don’t want them as a guest. However, most people on the site are like you: looking for a clean, comfortable place to stay in city far from home. I’ve only received one message out of dozens from someone I didn’t feel comfortable renting to.
Getting Paid with AirBnB
AirBnB listings are free to create and then AirBnB only takes 3% of the transaction cost when a guest books. AirBnB holds the money in escrow until 24 hours after the guest checks in. If there are no problems reported from the guest or the host, AirBnB releases the funds to the host’s checking account via direct deposit.
Simple and easy. It’s refreshing to see money flowing into my checking account rather than out of it.
You can customize your nightly rate as well as your weekly and monthly rates. This can be good for discounting longer stays, or charging more on the weekends, if you have a really popular place.
When You Deploy, Rent Your Place Out on AirBnB
If you’re renting (which can be a very smart decision based on the uncertainty of military life), you can always break your lease if you’re called away to active duty service for more than 90 days. This includes PCS, TDYs, training, or deploying. Basically, any time you receive orders to be away from your home station for more than 90 days, you have a get out of jail free card.
If you are not renting and are paying off your mortgage or own your own home, then renting your place out while you deploy can be an easy way to make some quick cash. If your property appraisers were kind to you, you may even profit. We’re trying to do this with my first deployment coming up. One way to make it easier would be to turn the keys over to a trusted friend or neighbor and have them available for the guests to pick up from. Bottom line is, you need to get those payments covered or else you’re going to need to know the list of credit repair bureaus by heart!
AirBnB has been a great way for our family to make money and also to travel better and cheaper. We love it! Have you used AirBnB or any other similar sites to make some money with your unused space? Stayed in any super cool AirBnB spots?
2 Websites I Use to Achieve Financial Independence Faster
I have investment accounts all over the place. To keep track of all of them in one place I use Personal Capital. It combines all of my accounts, shows me where I may be overpaying in fees, and provides beautiful charts showing my overall asset allocation and performance.
I use Personal Capital to track my Roth and Traditional TSP, Vanguard IRAs, banking accounts, SDP, and my Betterment taxable account, all in one place. It's free, secure and presents me with a one-stop dashboard so I can see all my money on one site.
Read my full review of Personal Capital and see how easy it can be to manage your investments in one place. Trust me, once you try it, you'll love it.
P.S. - If you have over $100,000 of assets and a 401k, you really need to run the Personal Capital 401k Fee Analyzer.
The best way I know to achieve financial independence is to keep your investments simple, diversified, automatic, and low-cost. Costs eat into your returns like you wouldn't believe! A 1% difference in expense ratios can mean $100,000s lost to fees over a lifetime of investing.
Even if you're a DIY (do-it-yourself) investor like I am, you need to check out Betterment. You can read my full review here, but the bottom line is for only $250 per $100,000 invested (0.25% expense ratio) you get simple, diversified, and automated investing. In addition every account now gets free Tax Loss Harvesting+ features, which should increase returns for the average investor more than the minuscule management fee.
If you're not a DIY investor or are just getting started with investing, then you definitely need to check out Betterment. It's what I recommend to my family and friends who aren't strong investors or don't care to learn about asset allocations, diversification, or rebalancing.